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July 07, 2016


> Seveneves

IMHO some of Stephenson's weakest work.

I quit shortly after the major timejump in the narrative. No characters in the part I read whom I cared enough about to warrant continued reading.

Calibration: I read all of the Baroque Cycle, and enjoyed it.

Maybe I should take Seveneves off my shopping list?

Just finished The City and The City today and, eh. Interesting concept but could have used a better ending, perhaps more exposition.

I can no longer read paperbacks,

Well you know
That you're over the hill
When your mind makes a promise
That your body can't fill

On the third page:

I was able to find this, and a few like it:

:"A" is agent (the person who acts) and "P" is patient (the person who responds).

Also, there is this, which firmly predates Seveneves.

Which I feel I must point out is palindromic. Probably everyone else had already noticed that.

Hmm, I never caught that Slart, so boo for my skillz.

Everything I know about fencing comes from The Complete Enchanter or Star Trek. Then again that covers most things besides fencing. I am a highly rounded individual.

I'd read it through once without noticing, so mine are no better. Actually, my brother pointed it out to me, so I can't even take credit for having figured it out on my own.

I read a couple of books from the used book store this week. Witch World by Andre Norton and D’Shai by Joel Rosenberg.

Witch World was interesting; it's so very fast paced by modern fantasy standards. It feels like an "only the action chapters" excerpt of a modern novel, at a 50% savings.

D'Shai did a great job of creating a non-European setting that didn't feel like a shallow faux-China or Japan. It was almost entirely about relationships and desires; more like a detective novel in the amount of violence and non-acrobatic action on the page.

You might enjoy Rosenberg's Hour of the Octopus as well. I didn't like it quite as well as D'Shai, but that was partly because it wasn't as novel, being the same universe. But still well done.


I read Witch World back in about 1965, when it was only a couple years old. Wyverns, right ? Vaguely amphibious hilfs with a technology indistinguishable from magic ? Loved it then; somehow can't recapture that when re-reading as an adult.

I think that Norton's Time Traders series has aged better than much of her other work. _Galactic_Derelict_ is perhaps my favorite work of hers. _The_Time_Traders_ and _Key_Out_Of_Time_ inspired in me a lifelong fascination with prehistory, particularly the Bronze-age beaker culture of northern Europe.

A bit of background/warning for those reading and wanting to apply any newfound Japanese vocabulary. Seme (as the good doc suggests) is from yayoi (male-male) comics and roughly means 'top' with uke meaning 'bottom'. However, I think they originated in manga cuture rather than being brought in from homosexual slang.

The term in martial arts is tori (taker) and uke (receiver). other terms include nage (thrower, often used in Judo) or shite ('doing hand'), with some variants scattered around.

Isn't naming the black character "Token" a joke lifted directly from South Park?


It's shite being Scottish!

Speaking of odd character names and Neil Stephenson:

Hiro Protagonist

Dr. Science, I agree with you about Fifth Season and Seveneves. Fifth Season is definitely going to be my first choice (unless something really amazing happens in "The Cinder Spires", which I have just begun), and Seveneves will rank low but above "No Award". It starts out with a bang (literally), but I could not find myself caring much about the characters.

What did you think about the other nominees? I very much enjoyed "Uprooted", but compared to "Fifth Season" it is very limited in scope. It's a very well constructed fantasy, built upon an unconventional mythic foundation (east european mythology rather than nordic, greek, or celtic), and it does everything right - strong plot, appealing and believable characters, well-constructed narrative. But compared to "Fifth Season" - I enjoyed "Uprooted", but "Fifth Season" really tore at me. I will rate "Uprooted" second.

As for "Ancillary Mercy": the first book in the trilogy, "Ancillary Justice" was truly magnificent, and fully deserved all of the awards that it received. But I don't think either of the sequels, "Ancillary Sword" or "Ancillary Mercy" are worthy of additional awards. It's not that there is anything "bad" about these books, it's just that they do do not, by themselves, break new ground. I will rate "Ancillary Mercy" third.

Does Seveneves even have any characters in it? I read the online promotional chapter last year and couldn't even imagine spending the time to read the rest, never mind the money.

Ninefox Gambit was a bit of slog in the first chapters--it really feels overstuffed, and folks that have read Yoon Ha Lee's collection Conservation of Shadows will have an advantage. It's well worth persevering; the book does not disappoint.

But I don't think either of the sequels, "Ancillary Sword" or "Ancillary Mercy" are worthy of additional awards. It's not that there is anything "bad" about these books, it's just that they do do not, by themselves, break new ground. I will rate "Ancillary Mercy" third.

This just let me articulate why I couldn't stand Ancillary Sword independent of my affable indifference to its predecessor. AS read far more like an author's debut novel than AJ did.

I tend to weight "world building" very heavily when I rate SF stories and novels, and that's why I ranked "Ancillary Justice" so high. Ann Leckie created a thoroughly believable , albeit horrible, universe in that book. She knew what she was doing when she named the dominant regime the "Imperial Radch", an obvious reference to both the Roman Empire and Nazi Germany. In "Ancillary Justice" we see this horrible dystopia laid out for us. "Ancillary Sword" essentially marks time in this same tableau. "Ancillary Mercy" provides some release, in that we see the creation of a new republic that is independent from the Radch and the Presgar (who appear to be even worse than the Radch, but that might just be Radch propaganda).

I hit the same point as joel hanes, the end of part 2, about 500 Nook pages in (might be less in physical pages), and the last part of part 2 stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. The earlier part of the story drew me in enough to get to this point, but then the various gambit pileups, implausible interpersonal interactions, smart characters carrying the Idiot Ball for too long, characters totally losing sight of the main purpose of the mission, important stuff that's been suggested earlier suddenly handwaved away - in this section, Stephenson reminds me of a bad DM railroading his players into the exact scenario he needs to set up the background for the next part. (Spoilers): Naq gura, nsgre cntrf naq cntrf rzcunfvmvat gur rkgerzr yrgunyvgl bs fcnpr, jurer nalbar pna qvr nyzbfg nalgvzr sbe rffragvnyyl enaqbz ernfbaf, jr trg qbja gb gur rknpg frg bs fheivivat punenpgref ur arrqf gb frg hc gur arkg cneg, naq fhqqrayl jr uvg Naq Gurl Nyy Yvirq Unccvyl Rire Nsgre. Rira gubhtu gurl unir ernpurq n cbvag bs eryngvir fnsrgl, gurl ner rffragvnyyl va gur cbfvgvba bs Znex Jngarl ng gur ortvaavat bs Gur Znegvna, bayl ba n cynargbvq jvgu znal srjre erfbheprf guna Znef, naq ab ANFN gb pbzr gb gur erfphr. V qba'g frr nal tbbq jnl gb ernq guvf bgure guna "V'z oberq jvgu guvf cneg bs gur fgbel, naq jnag gb fxvc nurnq n srj trarengvbaf gb gur fgbel V ernyyl jnagrq gb jevgr."

I wanted to like Ninefox Gambit more than I did. It wasn't the world-building or being dropped inside something you have to figure out. I like that. I like it when it isn't spelled out. But the "tapestry," while having some unique and interesting ideas, was simply too thin. Dangit. Frank Herbert ruined everything for me.

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